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Fine Gael & Labour are now ‘Continuity Fianna Fáil’ - Ó Caoláin

22 October, 2013 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking in the Dáil debate on Budget cuts affecting older people, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“We in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are implementing the very Fianna Fáil strategies and polices that they so loudly denounced while in Opposition.

“This Coalition Government’s treatment of our older citizens in Budget 2014 now proves conclusively that Fine Gael & Labour are indeed ‘Continuity Fianna Fáil’.”

 Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Coalition has imposed a series of attacks:

“Like Fianna Fáil they have imposed a whole series of attacks on the livelihoods and security of our older citizens.

“Last year it was the respite care grant and cuts to over-70s medical card eligibility.

“This year in Budget 2014 they have come forward with a further series of attacks on older people.

“The axing of the monthly telephone allowance is a callous act that has caused widespread concern, and indeed, real fear among older people. How is that acceptable to any Government that claims to value the security of older people and that claims to vindicate the right of our older citizens to remain in their own homes as long as possible?

“Once again the over-70s medical card has been restricted – affecting an estimated 35,000 people, on top of the 30,000 cut last year. James Reilly denounced such changes under Fianna Fáil. He is implementing them now.

“James Reilly and Jan O’Sullivan, as Fine Gael and Labour Health spokespeople, denounced the imposition by Mary Harney and Fianna Fáil of 50 cents per item prescription charges for medical card holders. In Government they have now increased those charges five-fold.

“There is much focus now on the position of Health Minister James Reilly. Should he resign as Minister? I believe he should - but I believe that so should this entire Cabinet because collectively they are responsible for imposing the anti-people austerity policies commenced by Fianna Fáil.”

Below is text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech:

We in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are implementing the very Fianna Fáil strategies and polices that they so loudly denounced while in Opposition.

This Coalition Government’s treatment of our older citizens in Budget 2014 now proves conclusively that Fine Gael & Labour are indeed ‘Continuity Fianna Fáil’.

Like Fianna Fáil they have imposed a whole series of attacks on the livelihoods and security of our older citizens.

Last year it was the respite care grant and cuts to over-70s medical card eligibility.

This year in Budget 2014 they have come forward with a further series of attacks on older people.

The axing of the monthly telephone allowance is a callous act that has caused widespread concern, and indeed, real fear among older people. How is that acceptable to any Government that claims to value the security of older people and that claims to vindicate the right of our older citizens to remain in their own homes as long as possible?

As the Irish Senior Citizen’s Parliament has pointed out, many of the security and monitoring devices which older people have installed in their homes rely on landlines - especially in areas where broadband coverage is poor. Replacements or changes to these systems would be costly and accessibility has been affected by severe cuts to the community groups who supply them.

Once again the over-70s medical card has been restricted – affecting an estimated 35,000 people, on top of the 30,000 cut last year. James Reilly denounced such changes under Fianna Fáil. He is implementing them now.

Age Action Ireland put the position well when they stated:

It is contradictory to be removing means-tested cards from a section of society which has high medical needs, in a Budget which is rolling out free GP care for children and heralding it as the roll out of its universal primary care plans. This year’s cuts are part of a continuing process of reductions which began in 2008 when the automatic entitlement for the Over-70s Medical Card was abolished.


At the time of the abolition of the over 70s automatic entitlement, one of its strongest critics was of course Deputy James Reilly. There was a partial climb-down by the Fianna Fáil thanks to the massive mobilisation of older people. But Minister Reilly and his Cabinet colleagues have set their face against any changes to the raft of measures penalising older people that they are imposing in this Budget.

James Reilly and Jan O’Sullivan, as Fine Gael and Labour Health spokespeople, denounced the imposition by Mary Harney and Fianna Fáil of 50 cents per item prescription charges for medical card holders. In Government they have now increased those charges five-fold.

The Budget figures claim that €43 million will be raised in 2014 by the increase in prescription charges. But in Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget we show that €258 million can be saved in 2014 by delivering further savings on branded medicines and altering prescribing practices.

We have also identified €66 million that can be saved by the introduction of generic substitution and reference pricing for the 20 most commonly used off-patent medications. And these are savings in medicines alone. We have identified further savings of over €330 million in the Health budget without affecting patient care and without affecting people's medical card and other entitlements.

But the Health Minister and his Cabinet colleagues, rather than deliver on their promise to make these savings on medicines, chose instead to break their promises to the people and to penalise medical card-holders yet again, in particular older people and people with disabilities who require a lot of medication.

A particularly callous Budget measure is the abolition of the Bereavement Grant. Bear in mind this was a payment that people were entitled to expect because it was based on their PRSI contributions during their working lives. But the contribution of older people during their working lives has been degraded and devalued by this Government.

There is much focus now on the position of Health Minister James Reilly. Should he resign as Minister? I believe he should - but I believe that so should this entire Cabinet because collectively they are responsible for imposing the anti-people austerity policies commenced by Fianna Fáil.  

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